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Brewer, Chin Request Zoning Text Amendment to Battle “Two Bridges” Mega-Towers

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Brewer and Chin staged a rally in the Two Bridges neighborhood in July.
Brewer and Chin staged a rally in the Two Bridges neighborhood in July.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Margaret Chin have filed a request for a zoning text amendment with the Department of City Planning (DCP) that would, if enacted, make it more difficult for developers to build three mega-towers in the Two Bridges area.

The two elected officials made the request of the city agency on Oct. 12 and announced the move this morning via a press release.

Back in July, Brewer and Chin urged the city to order a full land use review of the projects and threatened to file a lawsuit if DCP refused. The agency previously rejected a request from Chin to subject the massive projects to a ULURP, which would have required City Council approval.  DCP ruled that the buildings amounted to “minor modification” of the Two Bridges Large-Scale Development Plan. The City Planning Commission is now evaluating a joint environmental review to assess potential impacts of the towers, which range in height from 62-79 stories.

According to the press release, “the draft zoning text amendment… would require a new special permit for certain developments in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Area, to clarify that large, out-of-scale development proposals are not “minor modifications” to this area’s plan and would require public review.”

In a statement, Brewer said, “I have great respect for the professionals at the Department of City Planning, but when you look at the Two Bridges community and the way these massive towers would loom over it, you can’t help but understand that ‘minor modification’ has lost its meaning and we need clearer rules.”

“Since we first heard about these proposed mega-developments,” said Chin, “Borough President Brewer and I have made our demands clear: we need a real, transparent public review process. This year, we are delivering on the promise we made to the Two Bridges community by using every tool at our disposal to make their voices heard. These out-of-scale buildings threaten to displace hardworking residents, bring forth irreversible environmental hazards, and accelerate gentrification, which would endanger the very fabric of the Two Bridges community.”

In a separate move, Chin has proposed City Council legislation that would allow elected officials who submit land use applications to forego the city”s arduous procedures that must be completed before applications move forward.

Rendering shows Extell's 80-story tower in the Two Bridges area, as well as three proposed towers now under review by the City Planning Commission.
Rendering shows Extell’s 80-story tower in the Two Bridges area, as well as three proposed towers now under review by the City Planning Commission.

The new projects include JDS Development Group’s 1,000-foot tower at 247 Cherry St.; 62 ad 69 story towers from L+M Development Partners and the CIM Group at 260 South St.; and a 62-story building by the Starrett Group at 259 Clinton St. The rental buildings would add around 2,000 apartments to the area — 75% market rate/25% affordable.

As we reported yesterday, resident leaders in the Two Bridges neighborhood, along with the advocacy groups GOLES and CAAAV, are proposing a rezoning in the area to curtail the proposed towers. They’ll make their pitch tomorrow night at Community Board 3’s land use committee.

We have reached out to the Department of City Planning for comment.

A spokesperson for the development teams told us this morning that they would have no comment regarding the Brewer/Chin request for a zoning text amendment. The developers did, however, meet recently with tenant leaders in the Two Bridges Large Scale Residential Area. The developers, tenant leaders tell us, made clear their strong opposition to any changes in the neighborhood’s zoning.

In the recent City Council primary election, Council member Chin faced sharp criticism from her opponents over the Two Bridges development issue. They argued that she only voiced strong opposition to the towers in the final weeks of the campaign. Just yesterday, a group supporting Chin’s chief rival, Christopher Marte, announced plans for a march through the neighborhood on Oct. 25. They are calling on the, “community to unite to unseat City Councilperson Margaret Chin, who has played a key role in robbing the community of its public assets and resources to enrich luxury developers.” An organizer of the march is Tanya Castro-Negron, tenant leader of one of the buildings that would be most impacted by the towers. After narrowly losing in the primary, Marte is challenging Chin in the Nov. 7 general election.

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